There are, of course, many mistakes entrepreneurs make when they first start out. But there are two in particular that we have seen recur frequently, and particularly in the situation of a new hire. If you take the time to understand these problems and correct them in your own practices, your new hires will thank you, and will onboard much more successfully.
Hire for attitude over skill set
As we have discussed in a previous article about building a culture of talent, it’s important to focus on hiring people who are not just competent, but who wish to grow and scale with you. These are people who are just as focused on personal development as professional development, and are nurtured in such an attitude by you.
However, there may come a time when you have a particular need that doesn’t fall into a recognizable skill set. For example, if you want to start a podcast, but don’t know where to start, there’s not necessarily an app or a job board that advertises “people who know how to start a podcast from scratch.” But there is plenty of such information available on the internet, and if you were forced to do this yourself, you would simply learn what is necessary and execute. So, that’s what you should be hiring for as well. In this particular case you would focus less on whether candidates have worked in audio engineering or podcasts, and more on whether they have demonstrated the ability to be a self-starter, either in projects they were assigned or that they initiated themselves.
Remember that one of your goals as a manager is not to be constantly giving cues or handing out tasks, but shaping and encouraging your team to recognize their own autonomy and find their own ways to accomplish tasks, and to continue to focus on their personal improvement. When you hire, always choose someone with a better can-do attitude vs. someone with all the right qualifications.
Don’t throw new hires into the deep end
Many entrepreneurs have been on their own for enough time that they have forgotten the feeling of being at a new job on the first day. You don’t know where things are, when people take breaks (if they do), when people take lunch (and where they go). It’s your first day. No one expects you to know these things. At thoughtful companies, someone is assigned to the new person so that he/she can learn the ropes in those early days.
Yet, very often, an entrepreneur is so excited to have someone to whom the inevitable pile of “stuff” can be handed off to that it’s just “do this, this, this, this, this, oh, and this too” with not so much as a wave goodbye over the pile. You cannot do this to a new hire. You need to be focused on them and be that person who shows them the ropes, just as if they were at a new job for their first day…because they are! Help them get some early wins, build their confidence, and then, reasonably, step away.
As we noted above, you are of course hiring for attitude, and someone with a good attitude will take a pile of work in stride, but that’s not the point. The point is showing them that you care, that you aren’t just glad that they are a human cipher, ready to do their bidding, but that you want them to succeed and you’re going to be there with them when they first start to help them do just that.